afternoon, mid-winter

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55,575, Possessed. Tuesday was warm and sunny. After writing 638 words on a new scene in Possessed, bringing the Chapter 18 scene to 1,219 words, I took a walk to visit a recently met neighbor, a local artist who grew up on my street and only lives a few blocks from me. She’d invited me to drop by any time. The sunlit street beckoned and I had not been out of the house for days.

My street has old family homes built decades ago, each house different from its neighbor, lots of trees–the neighborhood is carved out of what was once mostly forest and pasture land, paved lanes whiskered with grass wind off into cul de sacs. My street runs straight into town, a less than fifteen-minute walk from my house. Arriving at the dark red bungalow home of my new acquaintance, I stepped up on the porch and rang the bell. Turns out she wasn’t home, but my walk wasn’t for nothing.

Now that the dust from my Great Move has settled, it was time to get a  library card. The Andalusia Public Library, a modern brick building that used to be the post office, sits at the end of my street, couldn’t ask for a more fortuitous location. The library used to be my home away from home in pre-Internet days, and I still like to have a library card. So got my card and did something I hadn’t done in a long time–browsed the fiction shelves, inhaling the scents of pages bound in cloth and cardboard.

I spent a few minutes reading half a dozen pages of Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear, which I’ve never read, and considered checking out. I tucked it in my elbow and wandered the aisle, looking at big-name writers, meeting certain titles like old friends. Coming across Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, I traded Auel for Waugh, the rhythm of Waugh’s prose having left an inspirational impression on my mind from a prior reading, and considering the stack of thick books on my living room lamp table, Auel’s book intimidated me in its length and I decided to let it be for another time. I could tell by the pacing of the prose it would be a slow read and I wasn’t ready for it quite yet. I walked home with Waugh tucked in hand.

On the way home I passed a tree heavy with lovely hanging droops of black berries, its branches flush with glossy green leaves. Don’t know what kind of tree it is but it was striking in its berried splendor, a boon to the many birds in the neighborhood.

I’m gradually getting the measure of place.

cadavers of thoughts

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A week ago in the hollow hours before dawn I had a nightmare that I’ve now come to terms with. It was a dreadful nightmare of the sort I had not had in a long while. The night it occurred I could not imagine what brought it on. I was dreaming pleasantly, can’t remember what now, only that it was peaceful. Then the nice dream turned in the way of dreams, flipping me into the icy grip of the restless tide of ocean waves watching a clipper ship sink.

The ceaseless waves were loud, the sea itself roared all around me and I was alone in dark and terrible water, rolling lap upon lap in relentless rhythm. Off to the left something bright red and tentacled hung on the surface, most of it submerged. I was afraid the waves would sweep me toward it and I despaired. When the ship was going down, I’d glimpsed a rim of land some distance away I thought I could possibly swim to, but when I struggled close, the land became no more than a rock, already sinking beneath the wash of waves, disappearing, leaving me with absolutely no hope.

There was nothing but inky ocean and dark sky and me with no hope of rescue. Despair overwhelmed me. I woke up, thank goodness.

I’ve read that the subconscious mind will break you out of nightmare when the terror becomes too great for the mind to bear. That might be true or it might not, but nightmares can be far more vivid than simple dreams and more real. They are the virtual reality of the subconscious.

It was such a strong nightmare I spent the following days obsessing about it, unable to not think about it. I finally recognized it as a reflection of the deep feeling of isolation I’ve had since moving from southern California to rural Alabama. Now that I know what it meant, I can deal with it. loweringsky

pitfall

Boreas_Waterhouse

Today was almost a loss thanks to dealing with my Internet provider and Direct TV, but I got the problems solved, though it took all morning and made me late for starting on today’s bullet list of 7 to do’s. Got 4 of them done now, except for the priority: typing in the handwritten pages of a new short story. Will do that as soon as I finish this post, which is not on my bullet list, but it’s been a while since I wrote anything here.

I’ve got a number of writing projects to do and was stressing out so I decided to try something new to me: the Pomodoro system (write for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break, write for 25 more minutes, take another 5-minute break, write for another 25 minutes, take a fifteen-minute break). I downloaded the Focus Time app to help me improve my productivity. I hate to have the day disappear without my having made progress on something, especially something at the top of my list like the short story. But dealing with Customer Service is exhausting, rattles my zen, and I usually need a relaxing cup of coffee (or a glass of wine) at the end.

It rained this afternoon, much to my cat Loki’s aggravation. She was outside, I was in my office, and she got a tad damp. When I opened the front door, intending to check the mailbox, she came running in, complaining, looking none to happy with the change in weather. Oh well. Her zen was rattled too.

I’m taking an editing class online, learning how to clean up my prose. I never know where or how to start and can’t tell if I’m improving the manuscript or making it worse. Now I have a clue. Discovered I need to cut back on the figurative language and adverbs (not all adverbs end in -ly, didn’t know that and found more than I care to admit in my manuscript). Me and my red pen are now buddies.

While working on Runaway Heart, I realized it was in the wrong point of view. Have to refocus the narrative, which means major rewriting of a completed work. May let it sit for a while. October’s sliding in view and I’ll be planning A Fall of Diamonds for Nano. I was hoping to have Runaway Heart ready by December 31st, but that might not happen.

I’m also supposed to send out a short story this week.

the fig and the Nimue vine

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Last week a mini-disaster helped free the fig tree in my backyard. My newly installed waterline for the fridge’s ice maker snapped and Niagara Falls was happening under my house. I discovered it just as I was leaving to run errands. Thirty seconds of panic, a sprint to the water shut-off valve, and then I called the plumber. While waiting, I decided to clear my fig tree of the lovely strangler vine with its musky honey and grass-scented white blossoms. IMG_1458

The plumber was on a job out of town, but promised to get to me by  noon or shortly thereafter. Brooding about my water bill, I got my orange-handled garden clippers, the business end a scary looking pair of wickedly curved steel blades, and set about murdering the strangler vine.

I worked in fair comfort despite the heat of the day. Humidity wasn’t as high as it had been and the pecan tree cast a soothing shade over my backyard. Like Nimue’s spell on Merlin, the blossoming vine was twined about the fig, enchanting and ultimately deadly.

Sometimes an idea creeps into your story and turns into a Nimue vine (as I’ve dubbed it), sprouting pretty flowers that beckon you with the power of its spell. Like Merlin, you fall under its sorcery. The new idea takes over your novel and pretty soon you are struggling with its snaky tenacity.

When you’re writing a discovery draft, this can be a good thing, but it turns into a hell of a lot of work once you realize your novel is suffocating. Has happened to me so many times. What to do about it? Nothing while its happening, just keep writing, but once you’ve reached the end of the draft, get out the wicked editing shears and shield your ears against the cries of your written darlings.

Am I not the master of my fictional world? Yes, yes I am.

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South

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The days are spinning down to my last day in the Golden State. In six weeks, I’ll be moving South to Alabama, a hop, skip and a jump of 389.2 miles from Louisiana, where I’m originally from. So I’ll be close to aunties and cousins once more and the passed on spirits of grandparents, great-aunts and uncles, and my father, who is buried in the hometown cemetery. I’ll be leaving Mom in her final resting place in Riverside, California, but I’ll have her with me still in heart and memory in my new home in Alabama.

Meanwhile, my last month and a half here is a long list of things I must do in preparation for the Great Move. Dad was in the Air Force, so I spent my childhood and adolescence moving state to state, country to country. I’m used to adjusting and adapting to new places, people, flavors of life, but Southern California has been my home for four decades and I’ve put down roots which I’m about to tear up.

I’ll be leaving a host of good and treasured friends whom I’ve come to know and love over the years. This is heartbreaking for me because I spent a good bit of my life without enduring friendships. I passed through other people’s lives like the proverbial ship until coming to Southern California where Dad retired out of March Air Force Base, and we were all finally rooted in place.

I enjoyed growing up on the move, but it meant never getting to know anyone or any place for an extended period of time, never forming relationships, friendships. I remember that it felt strange to still be in the same place for more than a year or two.

I will miss certain things about California–the golden weather of course (I’m a sunbunny.), the variety of things to do, places to go, things to see (but must confess traffic and the familiarity of knowing I could always go to this venue or that often kept me home.) You can guess the thing I won’t miss–traffic, traffic, and traffic, the irritation of how long it takes to get to a place that is, in real time, only thirty minutes away. There are other things I won’t miss, but I’m not going to rant. California is a lovely state in many ways.

I will miss my friends the most, but the Internet closes the distance. They may no longer be physically within reach, but e-mail, text, phone, and social media keeps connection going.

So that’s all I’ve got to say for now. Oh wait…the writing. Not so much because I’m busy with packing and working my way through my personal due diligence list, but I’m managing to keep my hand in. I have two writer’s group meetings this week, and I’ve been reading. And this week I received a rejection for a flash fiction submission too.This morning I finished Steven Pressfield’s enlightening and informative Nobody Wants To Read Your Sh*t. I highly recommend it.

jacarandas and emily dickinson

Jacaranda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacarandas make me think of Emily Dickinson. Even in my own mind I find it an odd association since Dickinson’s poetry reflects her fascination with illness, dying and death–a striking contrast to the joyful beauty of the jacaranda tree. But also she wrote much about flowers and gardens too.

There are various lines in her poetry that echo my feeling about jacaranda trees. From Poem IX, “Purple finger on the slope…,” and from Poem XII, the “tune is in the tree.” Out of context, but somehow fitting these purple heralds of spring in southern California.

Jacarandas are like the “unaccustomed wine” Dickinson writes of in Poem XXVIII. The flare of lavender against a blue spring sky soothes the soul parched by winter.

Dickinson’s poetry sings with the same beauty a jacaranda flings against the sky. (Although her original poems were frequently altered by publishers to suit traditional poetry conventions of the time–wtf.) But, if you are a fan, you can find 1082 of her poems at the PoemHunter site. Dickinson wrote nearly 1800 poems during her lifetime. It is a good thing that her younger sister Lavinia did not follow Emily Dickinson’s request to burn her papers upon her death.

One of the things I shall miss when I move to Alabama in a couple more months is the  jacaranda catching the eyes in its lacy lavender branches.

 

the rising water of dream

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A taciturn sky these past few days, a little sunlight breaking the sallow wash of gray now and then. Rain is predicted. April is like a melancholy woman from a Belgian Symbolist poem. Despite that, I’m basking in the light of having finished Runaway Heart. Now comes the hours of rewrite and revision, but I’m not fearful this time.

Meanwhile, while Runaway Heart cools,  I’ve returned to another story, completed in 2014, and in need of a rewrite, A Useful Blind. I describe it as a steampunk murder mystery set in the late 19th century American West. I guess that’s an  accurate description, but the steampunk element so far has been no more than set dressing. I hope to improve that in the rewrite.

The story has a number of plot holes that need to be mended and smoothed into the fabric of the narrative. Intended to be a short story, I think now it’ll end up a novella, although I don’t know where in the word count spectrum it’ll fall. It’s currently at 16,976 words. Novella starts at 17,500 and ends at 40,000. Don’t think it wants to be 40,000 words (according to one chart I found), but who knows how many words finding the end will take.

Meanwhile, again, simultaneity being the spice of everyday living, that great big non-writing thing known as life is happening. I’m in the midst of buying a house in Alabama and in a few more months will be leaving Southern California for a town in Alabama where my life will certainly move at a different pace. I’m originally from Louisiana so the South will hold no surprises for me, but I expect there will be some culture shock, having lived a long time in sunny SoCal. There will be things I’ll miss. There will also be things I will not miss–like traffic stress, the ever-rising cost of living, the impossibility of purchasing a home in a decent neighborhood, the irritating California legislature (you don’t want to know my opinion) and the crush of people that has kept me from visiting many of the charms and entertainments of the Golden State, especially living close to Los Angeles, but not close enough to deal with the insanity of the northbound 405 in search of fun or likewise, the southbound, and horrors to Betsy, practically never the 5, and never mind the 91. I’ve sprouted gray hairs on the 91.

Life is about change, and as a girl who spent her growing up years moving from state to state and country to country as an Air Force kid, I adapt easily.

I shall greatly miss my friends who are dear to me, but fortunately today’s technology conquers distance. I shall miss my writing groups and my yearly attendance at the wonderful Literary Orange Conference, but I spent many years writing alone, and again, technology makes it possible to participate from my solitary chair.

Well I’ve got to stop now. I’m tearing up.